Donating a kidney or a liver is a truly generous gift. Donors literally give a piece of themselves so that the recipient can live a better life, made possible by the liver’s unique ability to regrow and the body’s need for only one kidney.
Facts About Paying for Living Donor Surgery
By getting patients off the waiting list sooner, living donation saves lives. Understandably, potential donors have questions and concerns about the financial aspects of organ donation. The UPMC transplant team works closely with donors to ensure that their physical, emotional, and financial needs are addressed. While the team’s transplant social workers and financial advisors will address any donor questions, here are answers to three of the most commonly asked questions.
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Who Pays for Medical Costs?
During a living-donor liver and living-donor kidney transplant, a friend, family member, or stranger can save a patient’s life by offering a part of themselves. Living donation is a complex procedure; for living donors it is a journey with many stages.
The insurance of the patient receiving the donation usually covers most of the donor’s medical costs, including:
- Blood work
- Physical and psychiatric evaluation
- Diagnostic tests
- Post-surgery care
Who Pays for the Donor’s Other Expenses?
Typically, donors pay for their travel and living expenses. This includes travel to the hospital and follow-up appointments, lodging, childcare, and treatment for any unrelated medical conditions discovered during the evaluation process, as well as lost wages during recovery.
Recovery times may vary; liver donors usually miss six to 12 weeks of work after surgery, while kidney donors will likely miss two to six weeks of work. Although this means that recovery fits into United States family and medical leave statutes, it does likely result in not collecting wages for as long as it takes to be approved to return to work.
Potential donors meet early in the process with a UPMC transplant social worker and financial advisor to review options for covering these costs. We are dedicated to helping every potential donor feel fully comfortable and prepared to give.
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What Other Sources Can Help Living Donors Pay for Non-Medical Expenses?
A living donor can receive financial support to cover certain expenses from the recipient and from nonprofit organizations or government agencies during recovery. Start by speaking with your transplant social worker about your needs and options for financial support. They will be your best resource, because they know the most about your specific situation.
Be proactive and search for alternative sources of funding to cover your expenses, such as:
Fundraisers: These can be as simple as a classic bake sale. Plenty of resources now exist online to help you fundraise, such as crowdfunding sites and even some non-profits that help with fundraising strategy. Get started by deciding on a fundraising goal and getting acquainted with various strategies.
Service Providers: Some nonprofits provide direct services to people who need medical treatment. For example, Family House provides affordable, safe, and accessible lodging to patients and families visiting Pittsburgh for longer-term medical treatment.
Grants: Based on financial need, some donors can apply for grant funding from nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping people find living donors. These include the American Transplant Foundation, the Casey Fund, and the Living Donor Assistance Center. Visit their websites to learn more.
Next, speak with your employer’s human resources department to see if they have paid medical leave options, if you might qualify for short-term disability, or to request an unpaid medical leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Finally, call your insurance company to see what services they will cover post-surgery and to learn how living donation may affect your insurance costs.
Explore all possible funding options with your UPMC transplant social worker and financial advisor so that you can focus on the generosity of your life-saving gift.
For more information about living donation or to register to become a living donor, please visit UPMC.com/LivingDonor.
About Transplant Services
Established in 1981, UPMC Transplant Services is one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, including liver, kidney, pancreas, single and double lung, heart, and more. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and have a long history of developing new antirejection therapies—so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions.